Malaria major cause of S. Sudan deaths: Minister

According to a malaria consortium report, malaria is endemic in 95 percent of South Sudan, where high transmission rates are seen throughout the year

According to a malaria consortium report, malaria is endemic in 95 percent of South Sudan, where high transmission rates are seen throughout the year

JUBA – South Sudanese Health Minister Riek Gai Kok has said that malaria represents the leading cause of death in his country.

"Six out of ten deaths in South Sudan are caused by malaria and 60 percent of patients on hospital beds are treated for malaria," Kok told reporters on Friday. "None of us is safe from this disease; it's a real problem that we have to solve."

Kok was hosting a press briefing devoted to the burden of malaria on the country as the global health sector commemorated World Malaria Day on Friday. South Sudan, for its part, marked the occasion under the theme, "Together we can defeat malaria."

The minister said last year alone saw the admission of 2 million people with malaria into the nation's hospitals.

"Last year alone, 2 million South Sudanese visited hospitals and different health facilities and 1500 lives were lost as a result of malaria, mainly among children under five," he said. "The prevalence rate in children under five is at 25 percent; in pregnant women it is at 35 percent."

Kok went on to say that the government had drawn up a strategic plan to tackle the dire malaria situation.

"The malaria strategic plan will be launched next week on Wednesday. We want this campaign to control malaria and we have committed ourselves to reducing malaria by 80 percent by the year 2020," he said.

Kok also revealed some of the measures to be adopted by the campaign.

"We will distribute bed nets [mosquito nets] and ensure that everyone sleeps under bed nets," he explained.

He voiced regret, however, that many people – especially in rural areas – appeared to be misusing the bed nets.

"The nets have always been distributed, but they have been used for different purposes. Nets have been used for thatching grass houses, fishing and making fences. This is not good, yet malaria is still very rampant in these communities," Kok said.

He also said that campaign workers would try to ensure that all people, especially children with fever, were taken to local health facilities for diagnosis and treatment.

"We will introduce indoor residual spraying and negotiate with the ministry of finance to reduce taxes levied on insecticides," said Kok.

"All pregnant women will receive preventive medicine for malaria; we will sensitize and educate the people on malaria. Mosquito nets will also be part of the prescription for malaria treatment," the health minister said.

People in centers for displaced persons, he added, would also be targeted.

"Internally displaced persons (IDPs) will also be complimented with mosquito nets and other preventive measures," he said.

Head of the World Health Organization in South Sudan Dr. Abdi Aden Mohamed, who attended the briefing, said his organization was concerned about the high incidence of malaria in the country – especially among IDPs.

"We are monitoring them. The health of the IDPs is very important; we are providing them all treatment needed at all levels," Mohamed said.

"We are also ensuring that all IDP families are provided with enough nets," he added.

According to a malaria consortium report, malaria is endemic in 95 percent of South Sudan, where high transmission rates are seen throughout the year.

The report found that over two million people in South Sudan risked contracting malaria, which represents the country's leading cause of illness and death in children under five years old and which contributes to anemia in children.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency